Arsenal thriller left Norwich City boss Paul Lambert full of pride
If Arsene Wenger wants to trade hard luck stories, Paul Lambert was ready to call and then see his French counterpart after the spate of penalty appeals that peppered Saturday's pulsating Premier League tussle at the Emirates.
Arsenal's manager raged at the injustice of a late spot kick chance turned down for the hosts when Robin van Persie ended up in the net after a far post tangle with Kyle Naughton. Lambert, correctly as it turned out with the aid of the television cameras, suggested Gervinho was clearly offside, stationed inside the six yard box before the ball reached the Dutchman.
But that was a mere aside to two strong penalty appeals of his own in the first half. Francis Coquelin's awkward challenge from behind on Wes Hoolahan retained an element of doubt, but the second for a blatant shirt pull by Laurent Koscienly on Russell Martin left Lambert perplexed.
'It is a stonewall penalty, the one on Russell Martin,' he said. 'My player had his shirt pulled. No doubt Arsenal will moan about the one they didn't get but if you look at it, Gervinho is offside so I think they might be clutching at straws with that one.
'Every time we went forward we had a threat. No-one can point the finger and say we didn't deserve something. It wasn't just battling.
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'I thought we were excellent. It was marvellous. As good as in my time. I thought Tottenham was absolutely huge and I never thought I would see that in my time again but I thought we surpassed it. I thought we were brilliant. They have done that for the three years I have been here.
'They play with a freedom. I never set my stall out to get beat. Yeah, we might get turned over but we never go anywhere to frustrate teams. I think we were unlucky not to win the game.'
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City's recent downturn looked set to continue when Yossi Benayoun curled past John Ruddy inside two minutes.but Lambert was always confident the Canaries would rise to the challenge in such inspiring surroundings.
'What a place to play football. The pitch is like a carpet. Brilliant arena to play. If you can't play here then you should maybe look at another career,' he said. 'The gulf between the two clubs is a stratosphere. You can see it the minute you walk in the place that it is dripping with quality. I wasn't worried because I knew I had another 89 minutes to go. They won't capitulate. They hang in, which they have done, which I thought was great. I would rather get beat trying to go on the front foot than sitting back and waiting for things to happen and that is what we did.'
Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt cancelled out Benayoun's opener but van Persie's clinical brace threatened to leave Norwich with little more than a hard luck story until Steve Morison coolly despatched Jonny Howson's sublime pass.
Lambert insisted City's collective display was the perfect response to those recent suggestions a long hard season had caught up with his squad.
'No, I never felt we had run out of steam,' he said. 'We got beaten by Liverpool because they were better than us. Manchester City were better than us in that 20 minute period. Blackburn, I thought we were fine but goals change the course of the game.
'You have got to remember the magnitude of where we have come from. All of sudden you are asking us to come to a club like this with the resources and compete. I am proud as anything of the team. They never know when they are beaten, which is a great trait in any footballer.'